DVFA Monthly Question: The Annual General Meeting as an Indispensable Element of Direct Shareholder Democracy
Jun 23 2022
Germany Finance For the third year in a row, the AGM season is still dominated by pandemic-related restrictions. A legal reform of the format of the AGM is currently being intensively discussed, in addition to which more and more questions about sustainability strategy are pushing their way into the AGMs of companies.
A first question was aimed at the importance of the AGM for the share culture itself. Half of the investment professionals surveyed consider the AGM to be of high importance for the share culture, 29 % even very high. Only 19 % consider the role of the AGM to be low and only 1 % very low.
Shareholder rights suffer under current regulations
During the last two years, AGMs have only been held online – due to the Covid legislation. The DVFA asked: How do you rate the general meetings in the Corona format of the last two years compared to the attendance format before as a contribution to good corporate governance of companies? The clear majority of respondents, 62 %, rated the new format as worse. It is rated as unchanged by 24% and 14% believe that it makes a better contribution to good corporate governance.
Hybrid AGMs most sensible solution
Shareholder democracy in practice is a valuable asset in terms of the shareholders‘ right to have their say. When asked which format of the AGM is considered to be the most sensible in the long term for living shareholder democracy, the answers were clear. 85% were in favour of a hybrid format, 13% for face-to-face meetings and only 2% for purely online AGMs.
On the question of which body of a public limited company should decide on the format of the general meeting – executive board, supervisory board or general meeting – there was an equally overwhelming majority. 82 % voted for the general meeting as the decision-making body, 11 % for the supervisory board and 7 % for a decision by the executive board.
Sustainability issues desired through direct shareholder influence
Impulses for sustainable corporate governance may also come directly from shareholders. Say on Climate‘ resolutions, for example, aim to encourage management to undertake ambitious climate protection activities. A majority of 52% of respondents would welcome more direct shareholder proposals on sustainability issues in Germany. 18 % do not think this is right. 30 % do not have a clear opinion on this topic.
„The clear stance of our members is a clear pointer to companies and legislators: the rights of shareholders must continue to be fully enforced at the general meeting of the future – in order to strengthen the share culture in Germany,“ Michael Schmidt, member of the board of DVFA e.V. and head of the DVFA Commission Governance & Stewardship, comments on the results of the survey.